Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Israeli archaeologists say they received rare and valuable "Hanukkah gelt" last week in the form of a newly discovered trove of 1,200-year-old, rare gold coins.
Officials with the Israel Antiquities Authority made the tongue-in-cheek comparison to gelt, the foil-covered chocolate coins given to Jewish children during the Hanukkah season, both because of when the artifacts were found and their appearance.
"Without a doubt this is a wonderful Hanukkah present for us," said Robert Kool, an expert with the Israeli authority.
The shiny gold coins dating to the Early Islamic period were uncovered during archaeological excavations in Yavne, Israel, located about 17 miles south of Tel Aviv, before the building of a new neighborhood at the by the Israel Lands Authority.
What started as a routine search for archaeological information became an exciting find when the diggers came across a broken clay juglet containing gold coins, part of previously unknown ancient pottery factory active at the site for several hundred years.
The researchers believe the treasure might have been the personal "piggy bank" of one of the potters working there. Kool estimated the trove came from the early 9th century. The find included a gold dinar from the reign of the Caliph Haroun A-Rashid, on whom the popular story "Arabian Nights," also known as "One Thousand and One Nights." was based.
"The hoard also includes coins that are rarely found in Israel," Kool said. "These are gold dinars issued by the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled in North Africa, in the region of modern Tunisia, on behalf of the Abbasid Caliphate centered in Baghdad."